Malaysia discovers "Singapore-size" water reservoir
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has discovered water caverns roughly the size of Singapore, a government official said on Tuesday, dispelling fears that Selangor, its most developed state, could run dry in three years.
Initial studies reveal the existence of water-filled granite caverns in Batang Padang, a district in northern Perak state, which can be tapped for use as early as 2009, Energy, Water and Communications Minister Lim Keng Yaik told reporters.
"We have found a huge amount of underground water in Batang Padang. Huge. The underground cavern is the size of Singapore," Lim said.
Selangor sits just south of Perak state.
Water demand in Malaysia, driven by population growth and industrialization, is rising so quickly that experts have warned of serious shortages by 2011 or 2012.
The government has responded by doubling to 8 billion ringgit ($2.30 billion) its spending on the water sector until 2010.
Anticipation of that spending has helped boost share prices of water-related firms. Shares of Kumpulan Perangsang Selangor Bhd, have surged almost six-fold in a year, while JAKS Resources have doubled.
The discovery of water caverns will be a timely boost to fast-industrializing Malaysia, which competes aggressively with neighboring Singapore to draw foreign investments.
Singapore relies on Malaysian water supplies to help meet local demand.
Lim also said the government would soon invite bids from international firms for an interstate water supply project.
The 10 billion-ringgit plan, which has been on the drawing board since 1999, involves transferring water from resource-rich Pahang state to Selangor by cutting through the country's main mountain range.
Work on the dam and the tunnel through the mountain range could cost about 4 billion ringgit, with the rest of the money being spent on water treatment plants and the distribution network.